Page last updated at 08:28 GMT, Saturday, 4 October 2008 09:28 UK

Tsunami threat 'is growing in UK'

Picture of large wave
The academics said any future tsunami would be small scale and localised

The UK could be at increasing risk from tsunami, and especially amid climate change, two experts have claimed.

Oceanographer Professor Simon Haslett, of the University of Wales, Newport, said the destructive waves struck UK shores more than people thought.

On the BBC's Timewatch programme, he says they will pose a growing threat.

Britain's Forgotten Floods (BBC 2, 2010 BST, Saturday) focuses on research by Prof Haslett and fellow tsunami expert Professor Ted Bryant from Australia.

Prof Haslett said: "Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) compiled a report of the tsunami risk in Britain.

"However, the report omitted or dismissed a large number of historical flood events that might have been caused by tsunami, which limited the value of the report and perhaps underestimated the risk."

The academic duo took it upon themselves to investigate these forgotten floods, by examining 21 events to hit Britain over the past 1,000 years, in the hope of informing the national debate about tsunami risks.

"Tsunami strike British shores more frequently than previously considered," explained Prof Haslett.

"They have caused damage and loss of life in the past, and pose a future threat, particularly as a consequence of climate change.

"If we are correct it makes tsunami a more common hazard in the UK than previously considered, making the chance of another happening again in the future a real possibility."

Simon Haslett and Ted Bryant
Professors Haslett and Bryant looked into floods over the past 1,000 years

Climate change may have an unforeseen effect and increase the likelihood of tsunami as a result of sea-level rises and the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

Both could potentially trigger undersea earthquakes and landslides which could generate massive tsunami in the North Atlantic which in turn could hit the UK.

The historical disasters the pair examined included events associated with earthquakes in the Bristol Channel, Dover Straits and Thames Estuary and along the Essex, Devon and Cornwall, Scottish and Pembrokeshire coasts.

"These forgotten floods may not all be tsunami, but the association of many of them to known tsunami causes, such as earthquakes and comets, does support our interpretation," added the professor.

"However, any future tsunami in the UK is likely to be on a far smaller scale and more localised than the tsunami that occur in either the Pacific or Indian Oceans."

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